"Qu'ils mangent de la brioche"

by digby

Jeffrey Sachs writes:

The great scholars of capitalism, from Adam Smith to John Maynard Keynes, understood full well that a functioning economic system depends not on greed, but on moral sentiments and an acceptable social contract between the rich and the rest of society. The rich can make money, of course, but they must not flaunt it or consume it frivolously. Instead, they must invest their wealth for social benefit, whether in business or in philanthropy, or in both as in the case of history's most celebrated capitalist-philanthropists, from Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller to Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. It is only the dangerously arrogant rich or the servants of the rich who believe that morals don't matter in the great matters of finance

They didn't believe they were being immoral. And we can blame our chain-smoking, Dexi-popping, overstimulated cougar philosopher Ayn Rand for taking one of the seven deadly sins and calling it a moral system.

The moral purpose of a man’s life is the achievement of his own happiness. This does not mean that he is indifferent to all men, that human life is of no value to him and that he has no reason to help others in an emergency. But it does mean that he does not subordinate his life to the welfare of others, that he does not sacrifice himself to their needs, that the relief of their suffering is not his primary concern, that any help he gives is an exception, not a rule, an act of generosity, not of moral duty, that it is marginal and incidental—as disasters are marginal and incidental in the course of human existence—and that values, not disasters, are the goal, the first concern and the motive power of his life. The Virtue of Selfishness --- Ayn Rand.

Alan Greenspan admitted that for forty years he had believed Wall Street actually operated that way --- and that that meant that they were incapable of making decisions that would endanger the entire system. After all, they were rational beings doing the most exalted work one can do --- make money for themselves. Each one of the people involved in the CDS scheme were rationally making money for themselves and fulfilling their duty to themselves to make as much money as they could. They were being entirely rational and, therefore, extremely virtuous.

Now there is confusion among the masters of the universe. They don't understand why they should not continue to be rewarded today for their virtuous behavior. It feels as if their whole moral system is askew, they are being unfairly condemned, the "parasites" are taking over. It is not their livelihoods or their reputations or their industry that is under threat. It's their religion. That's why they are fighting so hard.